Nemours lab will look for child cancer drugs

    The Philadelphia region is home to a huge drug discovery and research industry.

    Now there’s a new bit player in Delaware.

    Researcher Andrew Napper leads the lab at the Nemours Center for Childhood Cancer Research. His team will look for therapies to treat a pediatric illness. A very rare condition called MLL-rearranged leukemia is on Napper’s to-do list. There are fewer than 300 cases in the United States each year.

    “It’s very hard to recoup research investment because the patient population is very small,” Napper said.

    He says big, for-profit drug developers are often on the hunt for the next blockbuster medicine–for diabetes, heart disease, or other conditions that affect millions of people, and represent millions of customers.

    Commercial drug research has widened to included so-called “rare and neglected” diseases, but Napper says, not enough.

    “I think overall a lot of this work, at least the early discovery and development work, will need to be done in the not-for-profit and academic sectors,” he said.

    The Nemours lab will use high-speed screening techniques with equioment similar to that used by the region’s drug giants. Proteins associated with different cancers will be tested against the lab’s library of chemical compounds.

    Napper said his researcher will look for reactions that suggest potential therapies.

    Funding for the nearly $1 million operation comes from Nemours and Delaware’s Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation.

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